By the 1980’s Mongolia had become a totally transformed society. Its population had mushroomed to over two million and was also heavily urbanized, not just the capital but the new industrial centers of Darhan and Erdenet north of Ulaanbaatar and Choibalsan in eastern Dornod aimag. The level of education had also grown, in rural areas as well as urban centers, creating a growing intelligentsia. Interestingly, the dramatic crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 barely caused a ripple in Mongolia. Instead, change came from the West and when perestroika was introduced in the Soviet Union, the ripples swept into Mongolia. Batmonh’s new communist leadership had tried unsuccessfully to implement economic change, but a new generation of Mongolians –mostly educated in the Union Soviet and Eastern Europe – demanded similar changes. Thankfully, the central role of the secret police and army had also diminished.

In contrast to other communist states of the time, Mongolia’s democratic revolution was remarkably peacefully and began with a series of popular demonstrations in late 1989 and early 1990. In a heady time frequently recalled by Mongolians today, mass demonstrations filled Ulaanbaatar’s Suhbaatar Square demanding an end to one-party rule and free elections. Opposition parties were formed and hunger strikes called.

By March 1990, the Politburo of the long-ruling Mongolian Revolution People’s Party (MPRP) resigned and massive constitutional and legislative reforms were implemented. After re-registering itself, the MPRP was joined by five new democratic parties. In Mongolia’s first free election in July 1990, the former Communist Party won a majority but agreed to share both the presidency and the government leadership with the opposition. A new constitution was drafted declaring Mongolia a parliamentary democracy with an elected president  exercising limited powers, guarantees of individual and property rights and freedoms, the separation of powers and a single 76-seat national assembly called the State Great Khural, elected every four years. For most of the times since, the MPRP-with its strong rural base- has controlled government.

Mongolian’s embrace of democracy has produced unprecedented freedoms-but also frequently acrimonies debates on the range of political, social and economic issues. And the excitement of those early days soon gave way to a downright tortuous and painful transition as the heavily subsidized and command-led Soviet-Style economy gave way to one based on the free market. The painful year severe shortages, rationing and unemployment between1990 and 1992 are still vividly recalled. Mongolians have survived much, and their resilience is now moulded by rediscovery of their traditional culture- and its long gloriously agonizing history.


Resource: Carl Robinson "Mongolia Nomad Empire of Eternal Blue Sky"